Dinosaurs, dictators and Nicolae’s film festival

Dinosaurs, dictators and Nicolae’s film festival June 7, 2012

Charles Kuffner links to this article on dinosaur sculptor Keith Strasser and says, “I want to be a designer of dinosaur sculptures when I grow up.”

That’s an excuse to tell this story:

During the 2004 election, when I still lived in Delaware County, I volunteered with Move On, knocking on doors in Everybody’s Hometown. We coordinated at the home of another volunteer — “Dino” Don Lessem. Lessem is a popular author and dinosaur expert whose career includes, among other things, consulting for the Jurassic Park movies.

Remember the raptors from those movies? Several of stood on Lessem’s front lawn. The dilophosaurus that ate Newman sat on his front porch.

The directions Lessem gave us to his house were the same as the ones he gave to the Patch reporter: “It’s a house with red shutters. And there’s a big dinosaur out front.”

Turnout in the borough was over 90 percent on election day in 2004, and my precinct went 2-to-1 for Kerry. Dino-power.

(Oh, and if you’re visiting Everybody’s Home Town, don’t miss Dino Don’s Dinosaurium.)

* * * * * * * * *

Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov is a ridiculous idiot.

That’s easy for me to say. Well, obviously, “Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov” isn’t easy for me to say, but what I mean is that I can easily mock this eminently mockable man without having to worry about any repercussions.

It wouldn’t take any courage for me to list all the honors and awards the “protector” of Turkmenistan has bestowed on himself and then snarkily retort: “The only title he is still missing is ‘Buddha.'”

But it did take courage for the anonymous Turkmen wisecracker who left that comment on a Russian news site.

Berdimuhamedov controls the press in Turkmenistan, which “ranked 177th in a list of 179 [countries] in Reporters Without Borders’ Press Freedom Index.” He controls what the people of his country can and cannot say about him

But, as Global Voices reports, web-savvy Turkmen have figured out how to leave untraceable comments on websites outside of Berdimuhamedov’s control.

Voices’ roundup of their comments provide a fascinating peek into a closed society. It also provides a powerful reminder to be grateful for the privilege I have to mock my own government officials with impunity. If you, too, enjoy such freedom, do not let it go to waste.

* * * * * * * * *
Historian and author John Fea has been touring to promote his book, Was America Founded as a Christian Nation? Fea is a professor at Messiah College, an evangelical school here in Pa., so his publicity efforts have involved a lot of Christian radio and evangelical churches.

Fea recounts some of the highlights from his travels in a Patheos column, “On the Road With Christian America“:

A conservative talk radio host in Orange County, California asked me if the founding fathers would have opposed the placing of American flags near gravestones at Arlington National Cemetery.  (There was apparently a news story dealing with this issue at the time of my interview). When I said that I did not know, he went off on a tirade about how liberal history professors were destroying this country. …

A Christian radio host asked me to define George Washington’s position on abortion. …

After hearing me talk about Was America Founded as a Christian Nation? at Colonial Williamsburg, a man asked me if Messiah College “was still a Christian college?”

At the same lecture, a woman wanted to know if I believed in “collective salvation like Barack Obama.” …

I began a talk at an Arizona mega-church by asking the audience of 200+ evangelicals to raise their hand if they thought that America was “founded as a Christian nation.”  Nearly every hand in the room went up.  (I have since learned not to start my talks in this fashion).

* * * * * * * * *

Andi Cumbo discusses her “Five Elements That Make a Book ‘Good’ to Me.” I thought about cutting and pasting the entire thing here, retitled as “Five Elements at Which the Left Behind Series Fails Utterly.”

The Transylvania International Film Festival last weekend in Nicolae Carpathia’s hometown of Cluj did not include the films Left Behind or Left Behind II: Tribulation Force. (The latter was a digital, direct-to-DVD production, so can we call it a “film”?)

But if anyone was looking for some End-Times entertainment, there’s been more than enough recently to keep the “Bible prophecy” maniacs as manic as ever:

Rockefellers and Rothschilds Unite,” the Financial Times reported, delighting John Hagee.

The Bilderberg Conference brought the leading lights of the Illuminati together in Virginia, sending Jack Van Impe into a frenzy.

And the Law of the Sea Treaty has resurfaced, causing Tim LaHaye to make his “O-face.”

If that’s not enough to keep the anti-Antichrist brigades happy, they can always just fall back into hating on Muslims.

* * * * * * * * *

Alvin McEwen challenges Alveda King to put up or shut up with her lies about Bayard Rustin. She shuts up.

McEwen also reports on a book that “blows the lid off of gay link to black gospel music.” Was that lid ever on?

And while I’m linking to Holy Bullies and Headless Monsters, McEwen makes another excellent point. The religious right is predictably freaking out over the supposed moral calamity of C-list superhero Northstar’s same-sex wedding. But they’ve never made a peep in protest of the morality of the Punisher.

In the last few years, The Punisher comic book has been the showcase of, shall we say, repulsive actions, all viewed in living color including but not limited to: Eviscerations (i.e. disembowelments), cannibalism, rapes, immolations (i.e. setting people on fire), close-ups of violent shootings, death by snakes, piranhas, sharks, polar bears …, beheadings, the destruction of an entire island by a nuclear bomb, a tossing of a gangster from the top of the Empire State building … castrations …

But not once, I repeat, not once has any religious right group raised anything resembling anger, outrage, disgust, or downright shock over any of these things.

It’s not that the religious right approves of such things, mind you. It’s just that condemning the Punisher’s ultraviolence doesn’t bring in as many fundraising dollars as condemning Northstar’s wedding does.

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  • Twig

    “causing Tim LaHaye to make his “O-face.”

    … and the weekend drinking starts early.  Thanks for that.

  • The best thing about that list of Punisher atrocities is that I can identify all of them being exclusively from Garth Ennis’ “Welcome Back Frank” Marvel Knights run, which was ultraviolent and very, very darkly funny.

    His MAX run dropped the funny. While better written, it was so uniformly bleak that it was much harder to get through. “The Slavers” story on modern sex trafficking is possibly the bleakest comic I’ve ever read. 

  • *gigglesnorts*

    Speaking of Left Behind – relevant, yes? :P

  • To add on to the above, the TRULY shocking thing about Northstar’s marriage is that it is between a mutant and a normal human. I don’t have any problem with the gay thing, of course, but I don’t have any truck with THAT foolishness!

  • Ken

    (The latter was a digital, direct-to-DVD production, so can we call it a “film”?)

    By the same logic whereby we still “dial” the phone, I suppose. I think it was Cracked that pointed out a while back that computer icons are almost as bad, especially the floppy disk case for “save”.

  • Jay in Oregon

     Well, mutants are probably decent enough people. But would you want your kid marrying one?
    I just think they should keep to their own kind, is all.

  • Tybult

    I get a kick out of the outrage about Northstar’s wedding and the DC character being revealed as gay.

    DC said they were going to have a major character come out, and then they chose Golden Age Green Lantern Alan Scott.

    Two points:
    1) No one cares about the Green Lantern, as we saw in the reaction the to GL movie.
    2) No one cares even less about Alan Scott. 

    And as Fred said, Northstar is a C-lister at best.

    All this howling about them is giving the characters more press than they’ve ever had. (Which is pretty much the exact same reason I began reading the Harry Potter books. So thanks, religious right!)

  • I have come to the conclusion that saying “America is a Christian nation” is blasphemous. The truth that the religious right dare not acknowledge because it would expose the apostate nature of their own corrupted religions is that 21st century America worships Mammon rather than Christ. Indeed, our devotion to Mammon is so complete that we are quite likely within the next few years to abolish every form of government support for the poor in order to lavish even more tax breaks on some of the wealthiest people to have every lived in human history. We actually pass laws imposing decades-long sentences on non-violent crimes for the primary  purpose of ensuring that  private corporate prisons have their beds filled and can maximize the taxpayer funds they can receive. We appear committed to the destruction of public education in favor of for-profit charter schools which will not perform any better but which will be make piles of money for the corporations that own them. It is better to let children die than to give them subsidized health care. And all because in this Mammon-worshiping country, nothing can exist — not one damn thing — unless it makes money for somebody at the top.

    Twenty years ago, Capitalism, Democracy and Christianity defeated Communism. Two years ago, Capitalism and Christianity defeated Democracy. Soon, Capitalism will achieve its final victory over Christianity, and decent people like Fred won’t even be allowed to call themselves Christian because their beliefs are so offensive to the Mammon-worshiping cult that has taken over the Church.

  • Tybult

    When I read “Nicolae’s Film Festival,” the following scene popped into my head:

    Carpathia peered over the edge of the theater chair. “Cameron Buck Williams! I am so glad you made it!” He reached over and patted the plush private theater seat next to him.

    “Come, sit. I have found this eight hour documentary on yogurt. It is the most amazing thing. You must watch it.”

    Cameron settled into the seat and set his notepad aside. After a few seconds, he said, “It’s not in English.”

    Nicolae shook his head. “English was yesterday. Today, is Esperanto, and also Finnish. Translators were most unhappy with me.” He held a bag out towards Cameron. “Popcorn?”

  • Mutants are Homo Superior! Dallying with humans would be like humans mating with chimpanzees!

  • Eight hour documentary on yogurt? No one could accuse Nicky of not having a love for culture. 

  • We’re living in Rome in about 398 C.E., basically. The wheel’s gonna turn very shortly, just try not to get caught up in the gears.

  • Tybult

    *Golf clap*

  • aunursa

    [Pathetic “Would Americans elect a Mammon president?” joke redacted]

  • Jeff Weskamp

    The Doonesbury comic strip has featured the nation of “Berzerkistan,” which is simply a renamed version of Turkmenistan.  The scary thing is, as psychotic as Trudeau makes the dictator of Berzerkistan, he’s no less crazy than Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov is.

  • Rhubarbarian82

    I’d also like to point out that the religious right was silent when Marvel had Spider-man literally make a deal with the devil. One that dissolved his marriage, no less! Marriages lost due to deals with the devil: 1. Marriages lost due to gay marriage: -1.

  • Jay in Oregon

     That was pretty much when I stopped reading Spider-Man. Not because of the “deal with the devil” thing exactly, but I saw it as the ultimate violation of the creed he swore in the canonical version of his origin: “With great power comes great responsibility.”

    Yes, his Aunt May was dying. But, c’mon; Aunt May is not going to live forever. Given the world that she lives in, with invasions from Atlantis and Galactus stomping around and cosmic catastrophes every other week, she’s damned lucky to have gotten as much life as she has.

    Peter had no idea what kind of world he was allowing to come into existence by unmaking his marriage to MJ, but he threw his responsibilities—to his wife, his friends, and the world—out the window to make that deal. I kinda half-expected the end of that story to be Aunt May having a heart attack or getting killed by yet another burglar, as a parting F-you from Mephisto.

  • VMink

    I’m not quite sure I follow?  I’m a little rusty on my Roman history but the only thing I found in 399 or 400 CE is when the Goths took over and the Great Palace was burned to the– oh.

  • But not once, I repeat, not once has any religious right group raised anything resembling anger, outrage, disgust, or downright shock over any of these things.

    To be fair, most of the violent acts described occur in the Bible—some, multiple times.  And yet, not one gay superhero wedding.

  • Randall M

     Hasn’t Aunt May already died of old age once?  It didn’t take, as I recall.

  • Lori

    The dilophosaurus that ate Newman sat on his front porch. 

    This is the single best thing I saw all day. And today was a pretty good day.

  • Jay in Oregon

    I believe you are right. Also, she almost died of radiation poisoning, from a blood transfusion from her darling nephew Peter.

    The Grim Reaper is racking up the frequent flyer miles when he swings by to see how she’s doing…

  • Just to toss a little comic books pedantry – it’s not precisely accurate to say that Golden Age Green Lantern Alan Scott came out. The guy who was revealed as gay is Alan Scott of Earth 2; he’s not Green Lantern yet (that happens next month) and he isn’t the same Alan Scott as the golden age dude. He’s basically a new character built on the elements of the original, and also is gay. 

    The golden age Alan Scott was hetero, though IIRC his son was gay (one of DC’s first gay characters, I believe). I don’t think that particular plotline got a whole lot of press, though.

  • Tybult

    Silly me, I got my fictional C-list DC characters named Alan Scott who are also Green Lanterns mixed up.

    (Mixing pedantry and DC Comic leads only to madness – witness Hawkman for the perfect example.)

  • Tonio

    Just for fun, is there any such thing in theology as “collective salvation”? Or is that simply a sideways attempt to label Obama as a Marxist? Keeping in mind that the labeling itself, where Obama is concerned, is generally a racial euphemism.

  • I wonder why they always give the alternate universe people the same names as the original.

  • Twig

    Just for fun, is there any such thing in theology as “collective salvation”?

    Well, I know if I get in I’m propping the fire door.

  • Robyrt

    I’m not sure why anyone who knows who Northstar is would be shocked at this. He’s been written as gay since his first appearance in X-Men in the ’70s. Read another few issues and you’ll see Mystique and Destiny acting like an old married couple, sipping the morning coffee and worrying about their foster daughter. But I guess you can ignore any number of hints as long as it doesn’t appear on the cover.

  • Tonio

     My kids have one of Lessem’s books. Whenever we get dinosaur books for them, I am astounded by the
    number of new species that have been discovered since I was a kid, and
    by the amount of knowledge we’ve accumulated about the critters since

    And yet, not one gay superhero wedding.

    Imagine writing a Punisher story using the premise of a gay wedding as a deliberate moral barometer.

  •  Well, I was shocked that he was getting married at all — though I haven’t paid attention to the character since the early 90s, I remember him as a decidedly unpleasant fellow. But I suppose that’s not what you mean. :-)

    I was also surprised when he finally came out, after all the almost-but-not-quites that Marvel pulled with him (most infamously, retconning him into a literal fairy).

    (tangential anecdote) I remember my brother commenting at the time that gay sex just wasn’t an appropriate topic for comics and when he was a kid comics had been a lot more innocent. I said something noncommital. Many years later, when I came out to him, I referenced that conversation as one of the reasons I hadn’t done so earlier… he seemed to believe that being gay was about sex where being straight was about love and family. He didn’t remember it.

  • VMink

    I guess Apollo and Midnighter are kind of off their radar?  Or maybe The Authority had already been labeled as being hopelessly lefty by the time Apollo and Mr. “I know what you’re doing six seconds before you do it” Grimdark Lonewolf had tied the knot.

  • Tricksterson

    It basically started out as an attempt to preserve the copyright on the characters IIRC.  All the Earth 2 characters are the Golden Age versions of the modern day characters. 

  • Tricksterson

    Imagine a gay wedding with the Punisher as one of the grooms. ;>

  • renniejoy

    To be fair to Northstar, there are only about 205 mutants left, so his potential dating pool would be very small if he wasn’t open to humans.

  • Headless Unicorn Guy

    And while I’m linking to Holy Bullies and Headless Monsters,
    McEwen makes another excellent point. The religious right is
    predictably freaking out over the supposed moral calamity of C-list
    superhero Northstar’s same-sex wedding. But they’ve never made a peep in protest of the morality of the Punisher.

    Slack…  In encounters with Media Morality Activists, I have found that Kyle’s Moms are either anti-sex and pro-violence OR pro-sex and anti-violence.  (And it breaks down pretty cleanly by party affiliation.)  You almost NEVER run into one who’s pro-both or anti-both.  Always pro one and anti the other.